05 May 2016
Children develop the basics of socio-emotional learning in their earliest years. Prior to age five, children develop their sense of trust, self-esteem, confidence and friendliness toward others. Their basic interactional patterns become much more difficult to influence from their early elementary years onward. It is important, therefore, to establish as early as possible strong emotional recognition and regulation skills as well as social skills such as how to enter group interactions, how to resolve conflicts and how to understand the perspectives of others. Strategies that work for most children most of time to develop socio-emotional skills include the following:
Maintain a regular schedule: When children can predict what will happen next, they can better control their behavior. Children with regular sleeping, eating, and transition schedules learn better and have a stronger sense of emotional control.
Narrate your child’s day: Children with strong verbal skills are better prepared to ask for what they need and to manage their daily challenges. Even before your child can speak, you can help your child by narrating everything you experience together. Your stories expose your child to a broad vocabulary and to a structure of daily storytelling. When you include “emotion talk” (“I was happy when… I saw you were surprised when…”), you also enable your child to recognize and respond to their own emotions.
Get down to your child’s eye level to talk: Children listen and respond better when they can look directly into your eyes. Calling out across a room rarely works.
Empower your child with appropriate choices: Children need adults to make certain choices for them to keep them safe and healthy and establish appropriate limits. There are choices children can make (“Would you like to read Brown Bear or The Hungry Caterpillar?”) but asking children to make adult decisions or giving into their negotiations can overwhelm them. Limits let them know they are safe.
Model appropriate behaviors: Children learn just as much from what they observe as from what you tell them. Children use appropriate language and learn to control their emotions better when others around them do so too.
Praise your child with specific language: Specific praise (“You zipped up your jacket all by yourself!” “You cleaned up all your blocks!”) works better than generalized praise (“Good job!”) as it lets your child know you are paying attention.